Black Mold Facts & Health Risks

Updated February 21, 2017

Black mould is a potentially hazardous problem that can plague any household if the right environmental conditions exist. If you suspect that you have black mould, you should immediately contact a mould removal expert. If you have encountered possible black mould, you may find yourself wondering exactly what it is and what it can mean for you and your health.

Basic Facts

Black mould is a generic name for Stachybotrys chartarum, also called Stachybotrys atra. The mould is toxigenic, meaning that it releases toxins into the atmosphere, known as mycotoxins. For this reason, black mould sometimes goes by the name of "toxic mould." These mycotoxins have the ability to endanger your health as a result of excess exposure, so you should immediately remove yourself from a black mould environment and take immediate action.

Physical Characteristics

Black mould, despite its name, is not purely black. From a distance it may appear to have a black appearance, but close up, it actually contains shades of dark green. If you encounter it close up, it should appear thick and slimy. If you encounter traces of it seeping in through a wall board or ceiling, it may appear patchy and velvety. Like most moulds, black mould has a thick, musty odour.

Where it Grows

Black mould cannot grow just anywhere. Like all moulds, it requires moisture, but since black mould grows slowly, it must have a constant and reliable source of moisture, which is why it grows more frequently following a flood or severe water damage. Less prominent moisture sources, like humidity, seldom provide the necessary sustainability for black mould. Black mould, unlike some other moulds, also grows best on cellulose. This can include any material derived from plants, like cotton fabrics, paper, certain kinds of carpet, and especially wood.

Health Risks

If you consistently breathe in mycotoxins from black mould, you may suffer respiratory or sinus infections, lung inflammation, coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing. Asthma sufferers and allergy sufferers have an even greater risk of developing symptoms, as do people with compromised immune systems. Though more research is needed, the Environmental Protection Agency warns that mycotoxins may even contribute to cancer growth over time.

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